By EMMALEE C. TORISK
The 8,904-square-foot brick building at 796 Fifth St. that was originally built as a convent for the St. Nicholas Parish may soon house foreign- exchange students attending area high schools.
If the recommendation to rezone the property from Residential A to Residential C passes during council’s Wednesday meeting, the American Scholar Group — a consulting organization based in Greenville, Pa., that helps international students seek education in the U.S. — will update the 60-year-old structure.
“They’re taking a vacant building and giving it a face-lift, making it livable,” said Mayor Terry Stocker, who added that about $400,000 will be spent on renovations to the former Purple Cat location.
“They’ll bring in a bunch of great kids, and it will be a great asset. I think our community will adapt well, and it will put us on the map,” Stocker said.
Stocker, who has been in contact with ASG representatives for the past few months, said “everybody appeared to be very supportive” of the recommendation during Monday’s public meeting of council’s Annexation, Zoning and Industrial Business Committee.
David Ho, ASG chairman, said he sought out the Fifth Street building, which has 25 bedrooms, more than a year ago, since the location would reduce time spent traveling from the Greenville dormitories to Cardinal Mooney, John F. Kennedy and Ursuline high schools.
Although ASG’s students come from “all over the world,” particularly East Asian countries, are mostly from influential families, and are “very well-exposed and very well-traveled,” they can’t wait to come to America as soon as possible, Ho said.
The first group of students will arrive in mid-August, he said.
“The world still perceives America as a superpower, and America is still the gold standard for the world to follow,” he said. “This is the ‘real’ America for them.”